Prime minister Sunak’s net zero U-turn and what it means for housing

Last Wednesday, Rishi Sunak announced several changes to the UK’s approach to transitioning to net zero. The measures announced covered a range of topics including electric vehicles, energy infrastructure, consumption taxes and housing. The announcements relating to housing, heating and energy efficiency are laid out below.


Energy Efficiency

Strengthening energy efficiency requirements in the private rental sector (PRS) has been a key part of a wider programme of work to develop a fairer and better private rental sector, alongside the proposed abolition of Section 21 (‘no fault’) evictions and the application of the Decent Homes Standard to the PRS for the first time. Government proposals to introduce a requirement for privately rented homes to have an EPC rating of ‘C’ or above by 2026 for existing tenancies, and by 2028 for new tenancies, were first consulted on in 2021.

Last Wednesday the prime minister abandoned these proposals, announcing there would no longer be any Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) introduced for homes in the Private Rental Sector (PRS) and that government would “never force any household” to make energy efficiency upgrades.

This is an incredibly disappointing move and leaves significant questions as to how government plans to decarbonise one of the most energy inefficient housing tenures both nationally and in the North. Across the North, 61.7% of homes in the PRS currently fail to achieve an EPC rating of ‘C’ or above, compared to 45.3% in the socially rented sector. Considering such statistics, government should be doubling down and being ambitious on increasing the energy efficiency of privately rented homes rather than retreating as the prime minister has done.



The first heating-related policy change from the prime minister is that the ban on the sale of new oil, Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and coal heating systems for off-grid homes is to be pushed back to 2035. This was previously set to come into force from 2026 and will impact around 1.7m homes across the country, mostly in rural areas.

The ban on installing gas boilers in new-build homes, and the wider ban on installing any new gas boilers both remain where they currently are, in the years 2025 and 2035 respectively. Sunak also announced that there will be exemptions granted for “households who will most struggle to make the switch to heat pumps or other low-carbon alternatives”. It is not yet known how a system of exemptions will work, but it is thought that it will cover approximately 20% of existing homes.

Despite some changes to planned timescales, the government remains committed to their target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028. Approximately 55,000 installations took place last year – one of the lowest installation rates in Europe – meaning that supply chains and installations will need to ramp up significantly in the next five years if we are to stand any chance of meeting such a target. Even still, the Climate Change Committee suggests that to reach net zero by 2050, the UK will need to install 900,000 heat pumps per year.

To boost the installation of renewable heating systems, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which offers grants to replace gas boilers with renewable heating systems such as heat pumps, and has seen low uptake from homeowners, has been given additional funds to increase the maximum grant per household from £5,000 to £7,500.

According to the most recent Census, only 6.6% of households across the North heat their homes solely using electricity, compared to 78.4% of households whose only source of heating is mains gas. The North faces an immense challenge to substantially change these numbers, fully decarbonise our homes and complete the transition to zero-carbon heating. To do so effectively, we need both policy stability and funding to support the transition. The increases to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme are certainly welcome, but the government will need to go further to support the take-up of renewable heating systems and to support housing providers and homeowners in retrofitting properties to increase energy efficiency. The Northern Housing Consortium have previously called for a long-term funding commitment of £6bn per year across all tenures. This ambitious level of investment would give housing providers confidence that support will be there for the long-term, and to allow supply chains and skills providers to scale up and deliver warmer homes and cheaper bills for residents, as well as reducing our carbon emissions.


Get involved in Black History Month

The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) is asking NHC members to get involved in their work to promote this year’s Black History Month.

You can contribute in any way you feel most comfortable, and that best represents the messages you wish to convey and stories you wish to share. You can write a blog (CaCHE usually asks for them to be no more than 800 words), and written for a well-informed, but not necessarily expert, audience.

They would also happily receive other suggestions, such as short videos, artwork, poetry or other ideas you might have.

If you want to get involved please contact as soon as possible and submit your contributions for review by Friday, 6 October 2023, or as soon as possible afterwards. If you would like to send something at a later date they are happy to post things throughout the year as part of their wider work.

RSH Consumer Standards consultation

The consultation on Consumer Standards issued in July by the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) has been largely well-received by NHC members. The consultation follows the passing of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act and outlines the RSH expectations of the standards customers can expect. Four standards are being consulted on.

  • Safety and Quality Standard– which replaces and enhances existing Home Standard
  • Transparency Influence and Accountability Standard– which replaces and enhances existing Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard
  • Tenancy Standard– updates and enhances the existing standard
  • Neighbourhood and Community Standard– updates and enhances

NHC members heard directly from the Regulator in an online session on 20 September and we held an in-person session for local authority members on 28 September.

We will be submitting a response before the due date of 17 October and we have been taken soundings from NHC members to inform that response. Whilst largely supportive, members would like to receive more details on compliance with some of the suggested standards. We would encourage members to submit their own organisation’s response to RSH. The consulation documents and information on how to respond is available on RSH website

Consultation on the consumer standards – GOV.UK (

If you have any comments, or are happy to share your own organisation’s response, please contact

Reshuffles in Conservative and Labour parties ahead of party conferences

Over the past month we’ve seen Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet reshuffles in the government and the opposition respectively, as both parties prepare for a general election in 2024. Following the resignation of Ben Wallace, Rishi Sunak appointed former Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) Secretary, Grant Shapps, to Secretary of State for Defence. To replace Shapps at DESNZ, the prime minister has appointed Claire Coutinho as Secretary of State. Coutinho will lead on the government’s work to reach targets on energy supply and decarbonisation.

Moving on to the Labour Party, a more substantial reshuffle took place across the Shadow Cabinet – including deputy leader Angela Rayner becoming Shadow Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Secretary. Rayner replaced Lisa Nandy, who had served in the role since its creation in November 2021 and has now been made Shadow Minister for International Development.

Angela Rayner confirmed that Liverpool MP Paula Barker would continue in the Shadow LUHC team in a newly created role – Shadow Minister for Devolution and the English Regions – signifying the importance Labour will place on devolving power away from Westminster. Weaver Vale MP, Mike Amesbury, was also announced as a new member of Labour’s Shadow LUHC team as Building Safety and Homelessness Minister. We were delighted to have Mike Amesbury attend our Real Homes, Real Change showcase in the House of Commons in June and look forward to working with him and the rest of the team in the future.

[Mike Amesbury MP with NHC chief exec, Tracy Harrison, at Real Homes, Real Change showcase in the House of Commons in June]

Rayner also confirmed that Shadow Housing Minister, Matthew Pennycook, would remain in his role.

Other changes to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet include Liz Kendall being appointed as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary and Thangam Debbonaire taking on the Shadow Culture, Media and Sport brief – replacing Lucy Powell who was appointed Shadow Leader of the House. Sarah Jones MP was also moved into Ed Miliband’s Shadow DESNZ team as Minister for Industry and Decarbonisation. To see Labour’s Shadow Cabinet in full, see here.

The NHC will continue to engage with both the government and the opposition in the run-up to the next general election, as we focus on our influencing priorities of putting housing at the heart of a rebalanced country and meeting the net zero challenge. This includes attending both party conferences in October, where we will be sharing the initial findings from our new Pride in Place research project and meeting with MPs and stakeholders.

From Washington to Oldham : Real Homes, Real Change visits with local MPs

In June, we launched our Real Homes, Real Change showcase at a reception in the House of Commons. We were joined by MPs, Peers, government officials, housing professionals and other key stakeholders. Real Homes, Real Change is a collection of case studies which highlights some of the brilliant work you, our members, are doing in the North to deliver green upgrades to existing homes – making them warmer, cheaper to heat and helping to meet the net zero challenge.

Sharon Hodgson MP; Gentoo resident; Gentoo Group CEO, Louise Bassett; and NHC CEO, Tracy Harrison

Off the back of this, we have been organising a series of visits with our members and local MPs to sites featured on our Real Homes, Real Change webpage. This included a visit to Gentoo’s Whinfell Estate in Washington with MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson. Sharon saw the positive impact the fabric-first retrofit approach had on residents and their homes, with work including new windows and doors, external wall and flat roof insultation, and whole house ventilation. There was 100% resident satisfaction with the works and all homes are now up to the key EPC C standard – in line with Gentoo’s commitment to having all its properties at EPC C rating or above by 2030.

Gentoo Group Director of Asset and Sustainability, Marc Edwards; Sharon Hodgson MP; NHC CEO, Tracy Harrison; and Gentoo Group CEO, Louise Bassett

 Our members across the North are bringing real change to real homes, so we move away from the North East and down to Greater Manchester, where we visited retrofitted First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) homes in Lees, Oldham, with local MP Debbie Abrahams. As MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, Debbie was able to see first-hand the impact of the work undertaken by FCHO in her constituency, with one resident commenting that it had changed their life. FCHO have fitted solar panels, triple glazed windows, new doors and cavity wall insulation to properties in the area, tailored to each homes’ requirements. Read more about the work the housing association has undertaken here.

Over the next four years, FCHO aim to undertake energy efficiency upgrades on a further 3,800 homes as part of the organisation’s efforts to reach net zero carbon targets

NHC Executive Director (Policy & Public Affairs), Brian Robson; Connolly (Main Contractor) Business Development and Bid Manager, Andrea Ratcliffe; Debbie Abrahams MP; FCHO resident; FCHO Sustainability Manager, Simon Davies

We are keen to get more case studies from our members which showcase work undertaken to install green home upgrades in homes, improving the energy efficiency, making them warmer and cheaper to heat. We want to keep the momentum going by visiting sites with MPs and displaying the case studies on our Real Homes, Real Change webpage. If you have a potential case study to send us, please contact


Listen back to our Meet the Net Zero Challenge Webinar Series and access the resources, supporting members to build knowledge, confidence, and resources in achieving this across their homes and communities.  Through this series the NHC aimed to move the conversation on, showcasing best practice and bring the latest policy updates and opportunities for the North to lead the way.

FCHO Acting CEO, Anne McLoughlin; Debbie Abrahams MP; FCHO Sustainability Manager, Simon Davies; NHC Executive Director (Policy & Public Affairs), Brian Robson

Pride in Place at Party Conferences

Look out for the NHC at Party Conferences over the next couple of weeks where MPs and stakeholders will get a first look at the findings of our exciting new research project: ‘Pride in Place’. The project heard directly from residents on what Levelling Up and Pride in Place means to them, their priorities and aspirations for communities across the North, and how housing providers, local authorities and government can help support Levelling Up ambitions.

The breakfast briefings ‘Levelling Up: What Do Northern Communities Prioritise?’ will showcase the full breadth of how NHC members contribute to regeneration in the broadest sense, tackling inequalities, and overall, improving community belonging and boosting pride in place.

Fostering pride and belonging in local areas is a source of community cohesion and social capital and will play a key role in reducing local and regional inequality across the UK.

The project is run in partnership with research agency Thinks Insight and Strategy, and supported by five housing providers across the North of England: Blackpool Coastal Housing, Karbon Homes, Livv Housing Group, MSV Housing Group and Yorkshire Housing.

The research included five three-hour deliberative workshops across the North of England; in Blackpool, Moss Side in Manchester, Prescot in Knowsley (Merseyside), Benwell in Newcastle, and Skipton in North Yorkshire; and brought together both social rent and private rented sector residents. Residents were then brought together for a co-creation workshop in Leeds alongside other stakeholders, including colleagues from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The final report will be launched at November’s Northern Housing Summit where there will be a session with Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Leanne Hearne, Chief Executive, Livv Housing Group, John Donnellon, Chief Executive, Blackpool Coastal Housing, and Jenny Summers, Research Director, Thinks Insight & Strategy.

Heartwarming Homes is here!

Heartwarming Homes, a brand new FREE toolkit to support you to engage with residents about energy efficiency upgrades has launched.  

The NHC, Placeshapers and Tpas have come together to create a free toolkit to help housing providers change the way they engage and communicate with residents about energy efficiency improvements. 

Developed in partnership with social housing residents and housing professionals, Heartwarming Homes builds on work by the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury and Placeshapers and Tpas research, ‘Residents’ Voices in Net Zero Journey’. 

The Heartwarming Homes toolkit includes research by the Behaviour Change Network. This found that approaches to tackling climate change, in this case having energy efficiency work done on your home, must remove barriers that limit individual action.  

The toolkit includes practical advice, and provides a range of resources, including template letters, videos and a step-by-step communication process. It’s designed to support housing providers to work with residents to overcome barriers to having work done, build trust, and put residents’ needs at the heart of energy efficiency improvement programmes.   

Kathy Thomas, Communications Project Manager (Net Zero) and lead for the Heartwarming Homes project said:  

“We’re really excited to launch this toolkit to support housing providers embarking on energy efficiency projects. Communication and engagement with residents should be an essential part of energy efficiency upgrade project plans. Getting engagement right can increase resident satisfaction and help projects run smoothly.  

“This toolkit will support social landlords at the beginning of their Net Zero journey, so they’re not starting from scratch with communication. It’s also useful for those who have already completed projects to combine with their own learning.  

“It’s fantastic to bring something practical out of two important resident-led research projects: the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury and Residents’ Voices in Net Zero Journey. It’s about the sector working together to overcome common challenges, it’s time to collaborate not duplicate.” 

Stephen Mackenzie, Social Housing Tenant Climate and member of the Heartwarming Homes Tenant Advisory group said: “Many of the Jury recommendations included aspects of communicating and engaging with customers.  

“What NHC, Tpas and PlaceShapers have done is to take the Jury recommendations, clarify these with tenants, and then discuss them with a number of landlords to develop a toolkit from the perspective of both sides.  

“I see Heartwarming Homes as a ‘fluid’ document which will continually evolve as practices, procedures and technology improve. Collaboration between all parties, including tenants, is key to hitting Net Zero 2050.” 

James Temple, a member of the Heartwarming Homes tenant advisory group who was also involved in the Placeshapers and Tpas research, said: “”As a social housing resident, I know first-hand the importance of great professionalism. Heartwarming Homes will really help when interacting with residents.” 

The toolkit was reviewed by residents, housing professionals and other organisations including the Housing Diversity Network, during a ‘Test and Learn phase’. It received excellent feedback and recommendations, such as adding more terms to the jargon buster, were incorporated into the project.  

If you’d like to find out how to get the most from the toolkit you can sign up to a FREE webinar on 9th October.  It’ll be a chance to ask any questions you may have. The panel will include:  

Dominic Ridley-Moy: Founder of the Behaviour Change Network: How Behaviour Change theory can help you engage residents in energy efficiency projects.  

Helen Ball: Senior Sustainability Manager at Broadacres Housing: Practical ways to support residents with energy efficiency upgrades.  

Kathy Thomas: Heartwarming Homes Project Lead: Key learning from the Heartwarming Homes toolkit.  

Terry Tasker: Member of Heartwarming Homes Tenant Advisory Group and Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury: What matters most to residents.  

You can book your place by visiting My NHC 

Heartwarming Homes is the latest in a series of initiatives by NHC to support members to deliver Net Zero by 2050. Building on findings from the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury there are a range of useful resources and campaigns including:  

Real Homes, Real Change 

In June, NHC launched a showcase of case studies in the House of Commons. illustrating the fantastic work members are doing to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes. The case studies include examples of good practice and some useful lessons learnt.  

Self Assessment Retrofit Checklist  

This checklist is designed to make the recommendations of the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury a reality. It’s a simple way to help organisations make sure their sustainability programmes meet the needs of tenants and communities. 

The Self Assessment Retrofit Checklist

“This toolkit is an important document, long overdue, and will, hopefully, be taken up across the sector”

Steve Mackenzie, Tenant Juror

The Self Assessment Retrofit Checklist is a practical guide for housing professionals to support putting residents at the heart of the retrofit journey. It is part of the NHC’s commitment to actioning the recommendations of the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury. It is a simple way to help organisations ensure sustainability programmes meet the needs of tenants and communities. It offers real life examples of how recommendations from the Jury can be put into practice. Themes include initial contact, surveys, delivery, installation, protecting the vulnerable and futureproofing.

The Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury produced a set of recommendations to the sector on how to work together to tackle climate change in our homes and neighbourhoods. The Checklist takes each of those recommendations and looks at how it can be applied practically to your retrofit project, it includes good practice examples from housing providers, and handy hints and tips. You can also use it as a performance indicator to measure how much progress you have made on that particular recommendation.

Over half the North’s homes – almost 4 million – will require energy efficiency upgrades within the next 10 years. These upgrades are needed to get homes to the key Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) C energy efficiency benchmark, making them clean energy ready. But EPC C is just a first step to delivering net zero.

It’s clear – the UK can’t meet its net zero target without upgrading the North’s existing homes. But the good news is the North’s social housing sector is leading the way, delivering green home upgrades, delivering positive social and climate outcomes to ensure all residents can live in a warm, sustainable home. It is essential residents have a say so that their homes are refurbished according to their needs and aspirations.

Learn more about the Retrofit Checklist at our Real Homes, Real Change Net Zero NHC members’ Showcase Webinar where you can find out more about the Checklist and the work NHC members have been doing in reducing carbon emissions and improving housing quality.

Download the checklist here.

HR Manager Kay Wiseman wins Health Advocate of the Year for Sunderland

“Kay’s passion for this project has been clear from the beginning showing outstanding commitment and professionalism throughout her leadership ensuring everyone has the right level of information and is able to contribute equally.”

Catherine Wilmot, Executive Director (Operations & Finance)

Congratulations to our HR Manager Kay Wiseman for winning the Health Advocate of the Year for Sunderland as part of the Better Health at Work Award (BHAWA). This award recognises the efforts of employers in the North East and Cumbria in addressing health issues within the workplace, the NHC gained the Bronze award last year and has been working towards the Silver Award this year.

A Health Advocate is a voluntary role within an organisation taken by someone who is passionate about health and wellbeing, wants to help raise awareness of health topics, and contribute to developing a positive wellbeing culture in the workplace – and even beyond. Kay works with three other Health Advocates to provide a supportive wellbeing programme at the NHC. The Better Health at Work Award scheme works with over 400 regional employers so winning this accolade is great testament to the work Kay has delivered on behalf of the NHC staff over the course of 2022.

Having established our staff-lead wellbeing working group over four years ago, wellbeing has long since been a high priority for NHC which we empower our staff to feel invested in, but by working towards BHAWA accreditation we felt we could sustain and improve on the efforts and achievements made to date, offer a broader and more structured range of wellbeing ideas and initiatives, and benefit from being part of the supportive community of organisations participating in and affiliating with the BHAWA program.

Some of the work Kay and her health advocate colleagues coordinated throughout the year included three wellbeing campaigns: ‘Better Sleep Week’, ‘Healthy Eating on a Budget’ and ‘Mental heath campaign’. These campaigns included a number of activities: webinars, competitions, tips and advice, nutrition packs, themed virtual brews, external speakers and getting outdoors schemes.

One example was during the ‘Better sleep week’ in trying to engage staff and encourage an element of fun into the campaign Kay came up with a photo competition for staff to submit photos of what they saw out on their walks. It was simple for all staff to get involved and was accessible to all being at their own pace. The internal Teams channel sparked loads of conversations about local walks between members of staff who may not naturally speak to each other in their work.

Kay thinks outside of the box when it comes to communicating campaign messages and for the ‘healthy eating on a budget’ campaign she asked a nutritionist to do a session at the staff quarterly workshop where staff got to hear from an external professional about a range of topics including the difference between ‘use by’ dates and ‘sell by’ dates, how to ensure a budget-friendly balanced diet and how to do a weekly meal plan. She also worked with colleagues to provide a nutrition pack to give out to each member of staff.

Representatives at the BHAWA were blown away by the Bronze award submission, a representative said: “There is a genuine feeling that the work being done to support health and wellbeing at NHC is welcomed throughout the organisation and being done because they really care about their staff. Wellbeing is built into team objectives which show further commitment from the organisation to look after their staff. Employee wellbeing is seen as essential and not just a ‘nice to have.”

Catherine Wilmot, Executive Director (Operations & Finance) said:

“Kay always has an open door policy and has time for everyone’s input and ideas, and has worked tirelessly well above and beyond her normal working week gathering the relevant evidence and information for this project. Remarkably despite her high workload I know she always finds time to offer support to other key members of the team.”

Kay was presented her award at the NHC’s staff quarterly workshop and suitably embarrassed in front of her colleagues.

Upcoming NHC events

Our fourth session in Meet the Net Zero Challenge series focussing the Role of Data, which will explore the crucial role of data in achieving carbon neutrality in social housing. Our speakers will discuss how data-driven solutions can help reduce carbon emissions and create sustainable communities. Further details can be found here.

We will also be hosting two further sessions delivered by Dr Victoria Miller, Clinical Psychologist as part of the NHC focus on Workplace Wellbeing.  The sessions will focus on managing stress and building resilience in the social housing sector. Our experts will share strategies for coping with stress and building resilience in a fast-paced and demanding industry. The final session will focus on understanding trauma and its impact, and will cover tools and tips to reduce vicarious trauma and burnout.

Finally, we will be hosting our 14th Annual National Resident Involvement Conference, we will be discussing the importance of resident involvement in shaping housing policies and practices. Our expert panel will provide insights on how resident voices can be heard and integrated into decision-making processes.

Don’t miss out on these valuable opportunities to learn, connect, and collaborate with other professionals in the social housing sector. Register today to secure your spot at these three insightful events.